The Good Girl’s Guide to Adventure

LOST

My friend and I jokingly describe each other as “Born to be Mild.” She rides motorcycles. And I? Well, I don’t do much of anything too “out there,” but I’m game for just about anything–just about.

I have a long list of books I hope to write, but I’ve reserved the title of this blog for a future book, titled, of course, The Good Girl’s Guide to Adventure.

I know the real rebels laugh at me. I’m not quite a Thelma or a Louis, but I’d make a pretty good Lucy or Ethel. Go ahead, you “normal” people. Laugh or roll your eyes, but you might consider loosening up a little bit. I’m not running with Hell’s Angels. But even the Wild Hogs yearn for adventure.

Me too! Me too!  As long as I’m home by eight.

Seriously though, I’ve had my fair share of “adventure,” mild though it may be. Check it out:

  • I’ve met and mingled with oodles of celebrities and gawked with the best of you. I haven’t been arrested once for stalking, but I’m not dead yet.
  • You know those crime-drama shows where the cops come to a screeching stop, block the get-away car with their own vehicles, pull their guns, and order the perpetrators to spread ’em to be frisked? Intense, right? Well, baby, I’ve been in the get away car–only I wasn’t trying to get away. I was simply leaving a pizza joint and was in the wrong place at the wrong time. That’s what happens when you get caught in the middle of a drug sting and are pegged as the pick up. Not!
  • And then there was the time I wandered down to a riverside festival  in Memphis to try out my new camera. Memphis. Expensive camera. Alone. The dark. A riverside festival. Mix all these ingredients, and you should have disaster, but I walked away smiles and grins from felons. I was too stupid to know that I was asking members of the Outlaws to pose. At least they were nice about it. And they didn’t kill me.
  • I like bikers! My first real motorcycle ride was on the back of an Indian motorcycle that belonged to a biker dude I met when I spent part of a summer in Colorado. Okay, okay. Maybe the guy wasn’t in a biker gang. Maybe it was more like a club, kind of like a chess club with leather jackets and Bibles. But I really did think I was going to die as I clung to the back of a total stranger going 70 mph on the open road.
  • Then there was the time I ran away with a cowboy. Well, maybe I didn’t really run away, but I jumped in his Chevy van and took off. Never saw him before in my life. Okay, maybe we didn’t run away. Maybe I exaggerated a bit. Maybe we just drove to the Jiffy Burger. Thank goodness for me (or my mama would’ve killed me), he turned out to be the perfect gentleman and became a good friend. At least I didn’t lie about the cowboy part. He really was a bull rider from Oklahoma.
  • And finally, there was the night I was chased by ax murders in the middle of a cow pasture in rural Rutherford County. No embellishment of the facts. Every bit is true, but I’ll save that story for another time.

The point is I think I have something inside of me that most people don’t have. It’s a spark or a sparkle. It’s that thing kids have right before they realize they’re too old to play make believe. It’s a sense of adventure.

I’ve got it! And because I’ve got it, I think my imagination can craft stories that young people want to hear. My kids at school listen. They always want me to tell one more

I just wish I could convince editors and agents that I’ve got that “thing” they’re looking for. Why is it the editors and agents have to be the picky ones?

I wish I could walk into a conference and say, “Hey, here I am, everything you’ve ever been looking for. You better not pass me by. Somewhere in this publishing world, the right agent and editor are going to find me. You’ll be sorry you were afraid to take a chance.”

But it doesn’t work like that. Right, fellow writers?

We go bonkers practicing our elevator pitches. We fight to sit by our favorite agent or editor at the conference luncheons. We write query letters that are highly likely to hear the clunk of a virtual trash can.

Oh, it’s a hard life, the life of a wannabe writer.

But, when all is said and done, I’m just going to pray and allow God to orchestrate his will. Paths cross for a reason–divine appointments, they’re called. What is supposed to be will be.

I can honestly say I like who I am. If anything, I’m unpredictable. And living inside my own head is a rollercoaster ride with its ups and downs.

I guess I’ll have to wait to see how the story ends.

TODAY’S CHALLENGE
Let’s keep it G-rated. Help me write my Good Girl’s Guide to Adventure. What’s the first rule you would add?

WORDS OF WISDOM
“Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.” ~  Helen Keller

MUSIC NOTES
Come on get ready for the ride of your life / Gonna leave long-faced religion in a cloud of dust behind / And discover all the new horizons just waiting to be explored / This what we were created for ~ Steven Curtis Chapman, “The Great Adventure”

LOOK AND SEE CYBER SERENDIPITEE
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ijqnsRqSo2k

FINAL THOUGHT

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pink stars

Take me back

To the child who feared everything that wasn’t to be feared

But feared nothing that had the power to destroy the world

Take me back

To the moment when emptiness and disappointment

Erased everything but the wrong answer

Take me back

To a closed door with no lock

When too much time was spent looking for the key

Take me back

To a place when courage rose up like a phoenix

Before raging fear brought it down

Make me believe

That God isn’t cruel

That God understands

That God made the puzzle and can make the pieces fit

Make me believe

That love is honest

And what is honest is not evil

And what is evil will not prevail

Make me believe

That all things happen for a reason

And reason is and always will be

Even if forever begins tomorrow and not today

If suns collide and pink stars fall and the world becomes unplugged

I will stand in my dimension and wait

My mind whispering honest

Words few have the ability to hear

V stands for veil, vulnerability, and valor

surrender

Because of you
I never strayed too far from the sidewalk
Because of you
I learned to play on the safe side
So I don’t get hurt  ~ Kelly Clarkson

Can you believe Kelly Clarkson was only 16 when she wrote the words to “Because of You”? The words in this song are so raw, so full of vulnerability.

Artists—musicians, poets, novelists, painters, sculptors, photographers, etc.— are naturally vulnerable. They slice open their veins just to let their emotions pour onto their art. They open their hearts and let people see what makes them ugly–and beautiful. Artists may hide themselves behind a thin veil of metaphors, symbols, or carefully designed wording, but they know the people who care to know will look behind the veil.

Kelly’s song resonates with me because as a kid I was terrified of everything, and as a result, I never learned how to open up to people, not even my family. People usually describe me as being “so nice.” And I try to be. But I don’t let people get too close. I’m too afraid.

I’ve always been afraid.

I came along after the birth of a stillborn child, so my parents were terrified something would happen to me too. They wouldn’t let anybody or anything get to me.  I didn’t date. I didn’t go to parties. I didn’t have friends over to my house.

And all of this not doing turned into not trusting–others and myself.

My dad loved cars, and we talked cars quite a bit. But when it came time for me to drive, I feared I would make a mistake. It wasn’t until I was an adult that I drove on the interstate. It wasn’t until I was an OLD adult that I drove in downtown Nashville.

Growing up, I lived in a anxiety-ridden world of what-ifs. My parents possessed multiple police scanners and knew every code for every potential disaster. Even when I married and had children of my own, my parents called every time they heard a 10-46 (code for an automobile accident with injuries). They had to make sure I wasn’t driving.

Spending so much time alone as only child, I became very sensitive to reading my parent’s body language and subtle facial features, so what I came to fear most, even more so than their wrath, was their fear. Thus, I avoided doing anything that could cause them fear. Their fear made me even more afraid.

When my first child was born, I didn’t tell my parents I was going to the hospital. I’m glad I didn’t. The birth of my first child was the most traumatic moment in my life because we both almost died. I don’t think I could have persevered through their second-hand fear. I had enough of my own.

When I was little kid, I didn’t want to go on Sunday drives to a little community in my county called Hoodoo because it seemed so far away–actually it was probably fewer than 30 miles from where we lived. I was afraid we would become lost and I wouldn’t make it back to school on time. I went all twelve years of school without missing a day or being late.

As I grew older, I stopped showing my emotions. The last time I “acted out” as a kid I was playing softball. It was my turn at bat, and I struck out. I became frustrated and threw the bat down. My parents chewed me out up and down for “showing myself.”

From that day on, I vowed never to “show myself” to anyone again.

And so I became a writer. How ironic.

I started out writing about other people’s lives. I still felt the sting of rejection when editors didn’t like the way I worded something, but it wasn’t until I started writing a novel and blogging that my artistic flair began its battle within.

I can count on one hand (a hand missing a few fingers) the people who know me. Writing makes me reveal part of my soul. I still keep most of myself closed off to most people, even family. Opening up is like giving myself away.

I do give my students a part of me that my colleagues don’t see. I do reserve a part of me just for them because I can empathize with their fears.  I teach a journalism staff of six students. None of them have extensive experience writing news articles, so I know when they get their first articles back with red ink smeared all over them, they will feel as though I have personally attacked their souls. I wish I could help them get through the pain.

If there is one thing I fear the most, it’s being rejected by somebody I finally open up to. And that’s why I empathize with my students. I have asked them to be very brave and to show me their best work, knowing I will tear it apart and hand it back to them. How will they ever trust me again?

I decided to put together a pep talk to pick them up after I knock them down. I hope it helps. And if you are a beginning writer–or a human being who is as afraid as I am–I hope these tidbits help you too.

  • So you feel vulnerable right now. Just remember vulnerability is a GOOD thing. If you were cold and calloused, people would never trust you. A tender heart just means you’re real. People prefer real over phony any day.
  • Take time to meditate upon WHY you feel sensitive right now. The answer may unveil a truth about yourself or about someone else who is important to you.
  • People who struggle with vulnerability issues are more likely to be PATIENT with other people who are afraid. Patience is a quality other people appreciate.
  • Vulnerability, at first, makes a person feel weak. But when people rise up after being hurt, they usually come back much stronger.
  • If you are vulnerable and scared, don’t show it. Fake confidence. No one else needs to know. The more you fake being strong, the easier it will be for you to make it through tough situtions.
  • Vulnerability is a GOOD thing because it prevents us from making the wrong move. When we become intimate with someone, we totally let down our guard and expose all vulnerabilities. Being reluctant to be vulnerable prevents us from being intimate with the wrong person.
  • Vulnerability is a GOOD thing for writers, especially, because it prevents us from saying the wrong thing. Once we lose the fear of rejection, we are more apt to print whatever comes to mind. It’s not always a good idea to print or say the first thing that comes to our minds.

TODAY’S CHALLENGE
Examine your own vulnerability both as a human being and as a writer. Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comment section.

WORDS OF WISDOM
“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.” ~ C. S. Lewis

MUSIC NOTES

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DL7-CKirWZE

LOOK AND SEE CYBER SERENDIPITEE
http://hastywords.wordpress.com/about/

FINAL THOUGHT

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Five ways to court your muse

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We can blame Nobel Prize winner Roger W. Sperry for the notion of Right Brain / Left Brain. There are a lot of naysayers out there who say his theory is poppycock. Me? I believe it. I work with people all day, and I see evidence of how their brains work.

That’s not to say a person can’t be adept at both ways of thinking. In case, you’re not familiar with the concept, the right brain is supposed to influence creativity, intuition, emotions and music. The left brain governs basically logic and numbers.

I used to think I leaned a little to the left, a little to the right. I was always a writer and a dreamer, but my best subjects in school were math and science. Well, until a series of unfortunate incidents severed my relationship with math. (I was so proud of myself last week when a student asked me to explain absolutes. I did it! Even after…um…cough, cough…decades.) But here I am an English teacher, a music lover, and a writer. What is meant to be will be. Goodbye, math.

But Right Brain, oh, how I love thee.

And for that reason, I consider my right brain to be my muse. I relish opportunities to dream aloud. Thus, I try to make my right brain happy.

If you’re trying to boost your creativity, you might try these tips too.

1. Create ambiance.

When I write, I like to be alone. Not always. Basically I just don’t want clutter, physical or mental. Negative energy can clutter my brain, so I try to escape conflict, arguments, and tension. I try to find a place where my Right Brain can relax.

2. Set the mood.

Okay, once the clutter is gone, I’m good to go, but if I really want to be uber creative, I light candles. I love firelight, and I am drawn to the smell of burning wood. I never play music when I write unless the music I play helps set the scene or makes me feel the emotions of the characters whose heads I’m in.

3. Embrace adventure.

Today I set out to write in a little coffee shop in a mystical little town, but it was closed. I didn’t want to go to the other two places where I usually write, so I drove off and counted on serendipity to take me to the right place. I found myself in front of an old inn, so I took a chance and tested the doors. Sure enough, it was open, and the guy in charge of the place invited me to roam all about. I was the only one there, and the second and third floors were dark. “You can go up to the third floor,” he said. “But it’s supposed to be haunted.”

A lot of people don’t think before they speak. They have no filter. Me? I have no brakes. Going where I shouldn’t is a flaw I readily admit. Considering my new book idea teeters on the speculative side, I thought I might get some ideas. And ideas I did get. I wasn’t the least bit afraid or freaked out—even when I saw something I dreamed about two nights before.

4. Turn off the alarm clock.

Life robs us of our creativity because we become so structured we forget out to play. Kids today don’t know how to make a mud pie or how to create a fort. Oh, they can whip up a gourmet meal using a computer program, and they can fight battles online with one of their many gaming systems, but they don’t know how to create from scratch. I say we’re made in the image of our Creator. We should use the imaginations God gave us. I adamantly oppose forcing children to enter pre-school. Too much structure! I am not a proponent of giving homework for the sake of giving homework. No time left to let the mind relax.

My favorite hour of the day is spent in the bed alone right after my alarm clock goes off. I purposely set my clock at an ungodly hour on Saturdays so that I can just lie there and think for one or two hours before I have to go somewhere. When I let my mind wander, I come up with my best story ideas. Yes,discipline is important. It’s good practice to make yourself write when you don’t want to write. But to have no time limit, to just be able to let your mind roam, that, my friend, is freedom.

5. Surround yourself with things that stimulate your right brain.

I like color. I like mosaics. I am not one of these chicks who shops for the sake of keeping up with the latest trends. I like to wear comfortable clothes that reflect my inner style. For me, that’s lots of color and flowy fabric. If I feel good on the outside, I am more productive from the inside back to the outside.

These are my rules for writing, my methods for courting my muse. Writers are odd souls. No two are alike.  They (we) all have our own methods of courting our muses.

One of my friends picked up Celia Blue Johnson’s book and shared it with me. She knows I’m an Odd Thomas fan (Dean Koontz), and she thought I might like it. It’s called, appropriately, Odd Type Writers. I have to admit, I wondered if she was hinting at something.

I ended up buying my own copy. I highly recommend it if you want to take a peek into the minds of the eccentric writing elite. Here are a few tidbits to pique your curiosity:

  • Edgar Allan Poe balanced a cat on his should when he wrote. (So did I until my favorite feline walked out the door and never came back.)
  • Virginia Wolfe believed “a woman must have money and a room of her own to write fiction.” I may never get either, but I will try to make my own nest.
  • Alexandre Dumas was OCD about the color of stationary he used for his different types of writing: yellow for poetry, articles on pink, and blue for novels.
  • Truman Capote did not gel well with the number 13. He was quite superstitious, never starting or ending a work on a Friday, never boarding a plane with more than one nun.
  • Eudora Welty would not write while facing a window.
  • When Maya Angelou writes, she rents a hotel room and orders almost everything removed so she won’t be distracted.

TODAY’S CHALLENGE
So, do tell, what are your secrets of courting your muse?

WORDS OF WISDOM
“All of us need to be in touch with a mysterious, tantalizing source of inspiration that teases our sense of wonder and goads us on to life’s next adventure.” ~ Rob Brezsney
“For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” ~ Jeremiah 29:11 (NLT)

MUSIC NOTES
Are you wanting inspiration? / You spill your secrets on me / Then you tell me with a whisper / Of things that will never be. (The Black Crowes)

LOOK AND SEE CYBER SERENDIPITEE
http://blog.freepeople.com/2013/05/inspires/

FINAL THOUGHT

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What’s the active ingredient of success?

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I discovered a “new” word today—resilience. This morning before school, I read Rachelle Gardner’s blog post about resilience, and the word slammed my brain. I can’t stop it from resonating.

Resilience. Merriam-Webster tells me resilience refers to a strained body’s ability to recover after being compressed by stress.

A walk on the Wikipedia wild side says resilience refers, psychologically, to an individual’s ability to cope with stress, to “bounce back.”

Resilience isn’t just for writers, you know. I shared the word with my students as we discussed qualities that might make them stand out among the applicants competing for college admission or scholarship money.

Many students are hard workers, overachievers, and smart. But not everyone has suffered tremendous adversity. Those who do don’t always rise above it. Resilience is a quality that screams while other positive qualities nod and wave–at least on some scholarship applications.

But students can’t just say they’re resilient. They have to prove it, show it. The only way to provide evidence is to have lived it.

I challenged my student to take their readers into their heads and to show them the video of their obstacle so readers could feel their emotions. Hundreds of essays vie for limited money, The essay that makes the reader feel nothing usually ends  up in File C, as in C for can.

In real life, I need students to show me their resilience. Resilience is, as a matter of fact, the active ingredient in success.

Throughout the year, my students will battle obstacles—failure, broken relationships, financial trials, loss, fear of the unknown, fatigue, etc. Despite their problems, I need them to get out of bed, to get dressed, to arrive to school on time, to keep their heads up, to pay attention, to attempt the task, and to try again when they stumble–no matter how they FEEL.

As soon as I mouthed the word resilience, I knew I was talking to myself, more so than to my students.

They can’t succeed if they give up. Neither can I. Neither can you. Resilience is the ACTIVE ingredient in success because it requires us to DO something.

I’ve been talking about writing for a long time. In fact, one of my former students called me on it the other day. “This book, this book,” she said. “What is this book you keep talking about? Where is it?”

Yeah, where is “this book”?

It has been written, proofed, critiqued multiple times, been recognized in multiple competitions. What now?

I need to administer a dose of resilience. Two years ago I hit the pause button on life. It’s time for me to hit play and to finish the game.

Instead of looking at the time I lost, I can turn a negative into a positive. I plan on going back and looking at my manuscript with fresh eyes from a marketing standpoint, not a writing standpoint.

I can write. I don’t have much confidence in anything else about me, but one thing I know is that I can write. Now I need to find my selling point.

I believe I’m bouncing back. Is it weird that I woke up one morning with a new elevator pitch for the book?

Nope. I think the writer in me has finally found the resilience. I’ve always felt as though I have a good story, but I haven’t had a good marketing plan. I’m the first person who has to sell it, to an agent or editor, who then will rely on me to sell it to readers, so I need to I need to believe in it so others will believe in it too.

TODAY’S CHALLENGE
Now it’s your turn to examine yourself and your situation. What’s keeping you down? I challenge you to seek good medicine for what ails you, positive words and a good measure of resilience.

WORDS OF WISDOM
“No matter how much falls on us, we keep plowing ahead. That’s the only way to keep the roads clear.”  ~  Greg Kincaid

“Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord, your God, who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.”  ~  Deut. 31:6

MUSIC NOTES
But the good news / Is there’s angels everywhere out on the street / Holding out a hand to pull you back up on your feet / The one’s that you’ve been dragging for so long / You’re on your knees / You might as well be praying  ~ Dave Berg, “If You’re Going Through Hell,” recorded by Rodney Atkins

LOOK AND SEE CYBER SERENDIPITEE

http://www.booksandsuch.biz/blog/do-you-have-resilience/

FINAL THOUGHT

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I appreciate your help. Would you please copy and paste the URL on your Facebook page? I will be glad to help you promote your writing too. Feel free to leave a link to your blog in the comments section.
Stay positive. Don’t give up!